Industries and manufacturers are increasingly approaching the challenge of digital transformation, some with caution, some with great anticipation, yet perhaps still others with unease. However, the message in a recent analyst report “Quality 4.0: Get Educated Get Involved, and Build a Successful Strategy” is clear—transform your company’s operations and efforts digitally or risk digital disruption. Forty percent of companies have already started a digital transformation initiative while another 17 percent kicked off initiatives in 2017, according to the report, which was co-sponsored by LNS Research and MasterControl.
But rather than be intimidated by these next-gen technologies (i.e., advanced analytics and digital connectivity) quality leaders would do well to jump in head first and explore them, test drive them, and learn how their company’s quality operations stand to benefit from them.
Better yet, there’s no need to go into digital transformation blindfolded. A well-fleshed out strategy, Quality 4.0, outlines how quality professionals in any manufacturer segment, regardless of industry, can create a road map to blend these new technologies with traditional quality methods to form a hybrid that achieves new heights in operational excellence, performance, and innovation.
This strategic approach to quality improvement is important because these technologies can help manufacturers realize new levels of performance, innovate, and solve long-standing people and process quality challenges such as evidence-based decision making, collaboration, design transfer, and culture.
But even though early adopters of Quality 4.0, have experienced competitive advantage in the form of improved revenue, margins, and operational performance, many quality leaders have been slow to take the reins. Common hurdles include a lack of understanding of effective quality use cases and the fact that leaders often focus more on human and process initiatives rather than technological enterprises. Still, real success can be attained through the strategy when quality leaders have a vision of its advantages and can express that value to stakeholders because the initiatives Quality 4.0 espouse align so closely with the company’s strategic objectives and advance its culture of quality.
Make no mistake; Quality 4.0 is not a separate initiative. It builds upon and enhances traditional quality, and when properly executed, improves the success of traditional initiatives. Leaders across the organization should educate themselves about Quality 4.0, get involved with corporate digitalization initiatives, and update existing strategies to include Quality 4.0 because it is a real transformation affecting all industry. Those left without an effective strategy are at risk of disruption.
Because Quality 4.0 allows manufacturers to drive quality improvement through insights gained from digitally connected equipment, people, processes, and operational and business systems, technology upgrades are key. And though you’ll want to update your existing traditional quality strategy to reflect this, aligning your Quality 4.0 strategy with your organization’s strategic objectives is essential for it to succeed.
When quality teams were asked in the LNS Research study how quality aligned with executive strategy, only 31 percent said that this alignment was understood throughout the team. More alarmingly, only 13 percent said it was understood throughout the entire organization, and a dismal 7 percent said it was supported by the entire organization. Is it any shock then when only 13 percent report that quality is a top management priority? Moreover, those without top management priority adopt an average of 2.6 times fewer best practices than those with priority.
This data show that clearly connecting operational excellence to strategic objectives increases priority with top management, gains alignment across the organization, and results in the adoption of many more best practices. Building your own Quality 4.0 strategy based on your company’s strategic objectives can impact quality across several fronts:
A manufacturer’s operational excellence model is its adopted people, process, and technology best practices. Quality 4.0 considers traditional quality capabilities that involve people and process elements while determining what technologies could improve its effectivity or boost customer complaint performance.
For example, when 4.0 is employed in manufacturing testing and validation in which end products have intelligence and connectivity built in, there are opportunities to maximized these capabilities. Tech can dramatically reduce the cost of quality testing and build toward 100 percent quality testing into the production process. In one use case, a leading smart-connected products company is using new connectivity, data, and analytic capacities in the product to conduct quality testing during production. This helps eliminate previously undetected dead on arrival (DoA) failures from reaching the customer’s doorstep.
Quality 4.0’s impact on operational excellence also plays into supplier quality management, customer complaint reduction, and enhanced compliance. Due to a manufacturer’s regulatory, industry, customer, and internal compliance requirements that affect quality management, it can often seem like these requirements dominate QM objectives, consume precious quality resources, leading to the perception of quality as being a compliance group and cost center rather than a business value generator.
When it comes to compliance, Quality 4.0 play a critical role. Many technology providers have preconfigured compliance requirements for out-of-box solutions. Several of these had been successful enough that several CIOs are expecting close to 100 percent preconfigured compliance. The trend has been increasing to the point that quality teams can zero in on quality improvement rather than compliance.
Cross-functional leaders can improve quality by adopting a Quality 4.0 strategy that will allow your company to differentiate itself from the competition, protect its brand, reduce its risks, and attract more customers. Another crucial component of any successful, forward-thinking quality management approach is the implementation of an automated Enterprise Quality Management System (EQMS) such as that offered by MasterControl.
How are you and your organization leveraging technology to improve your organization’s quality methods? Please leave a comment below.
Mike Rigert is a content marketing specialist at Master Control Inc’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. A native of the Chicago area, he has nearly a decade and a half of experience creating journalism and marketing content for the news media, public safety, and higher education industries. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brigham Young University.